Proud mom: Elizabeth Simmons with a young Nahki, who was playing for Dandy Town at a youth tournament. *Photo supplied
Proud mom: Elizabeth Simmons with a young Nahki, who was playing for Dandy Town at a youth tournament. *Photo supplied
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A window is smashed once again at a house in Devonshire.

The culprit’s mom curses to herself as she cleans yet more shattered glass from her home, courtesy of another wayward football.

Little did she know that years later, her yard would be replaced by the most famous stadium in the world as the stage for her son’s footballing feats.

That ultra-competitive, budding striker causing the damage was, of course, Nahki Wells, now 22.

Tomorrow, Elizabeth Simmons flies to London with all immediate family to watch her boy play for Bradford City in the Capital One Cup Final against Premier League Swansea City.

A couple of times, as she describes Nahki’s childhood and rapid rise over the past couple of years, her eyes well up. The pride is obvious — and it’s not hard to picture her reaction when the teams run out on Sunday: “I’ll probably start bawling,” she said. “When I read the newspaper articles on him, I start bawling.”

Watching the two-legged semi-final against Aston Villa, which Bradford won 4-3 on aggregate, was a fraught experience. While Nahki’s brothers Aaron, 27, and Rico, 19, sought out a pub, Elizabeth put herself through the wringer.

She said: “It was absolutely nerve-wracking. I listen to the games every weekend on the computer. No-one can talk to me, I’m so interested in the game and trying to picture what’s going on. But when I watch it on TV, I’m like a crazy woman. His brothers go to the pub to watch but I have to be home by myself because I’m screaming at the TV like a crazy person.

“My neighbours are probably like ‘what’s going on in there?’ I don’t really know how I’m going to be when I’m at Wembley — I’ll probably have a heart attack! When I see him on the big screen it’s like ‘that’s my baby’. I really can’t describe it.”

Nahki’s battles in the yard with his brothers honed his will to win. He was, and still is, says his mom, a “sore loser”. This, coupled with natural ability and an increasingly fierce focus on achieving his dream, has propelled him to the brink of making sporting history for this island.

He is set to be the first Bermudian to play in a major cup final in England, and just the third to play at the famous stadium. Not bad for a kid who first started banging in goals at Elliott Primary School.

“It was always football,” Elizabeth says. “From the time he was a little boy and from the time he could walk he used to say ‘I’m going to be a professional footballer’. You couldn’t convince him of anything else — that was what he was going to do.

“He was always out in the yard breaking my windows on a regular basis. All the boys were into football – although the oldest is not so much any more.

“He’s such a humble child. All the boys have different personalities. Nahki’s humble, very competitive but a humble child at the same time.”

Family

Clearly, family has played a huge role in his personality and success, and his brothers will join their mom in Bradford for a two-week holiday after the match. “We’re going to celebrate whatever,” says Elizabeth.

Nahki’s dad, Michael Wells — who will also be at Wembley — comes from a long line of Dandy Town players, a family link that Nahki and Rico have both followed.

Grandparents Sandra and Bobby — who Nahki “loves to death” — are big influences, while there’s undoubtedly a special place in the young footballer’s heart for his nephew Michael, who turns eight today.

On the pitch, Nahki’s express route to Wembley saw him jump from the Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy (RIASA) in Yorkshire, England, to a short stint at Carlisle United before finding his current home with the Bantams.

And for his mom, it’s his contribution to the history of a football club thousands of miles from his upbringing in Bermuda that really brings home what her son has achieved.

She said: “The thing for me is probably more than anything is he’s part of Bradford’s history right now. I mean he got the first hat-trick there [for four years], he got the 6,000th goal for the club and then when you look at it in his first season for Bradford he got 12 goals, which was fantastic.

“Everything has been happening so fast. When you think about it, he was only in England for five months in 2010 before he went on trial at Carlisle.

“This little Bermudian boy, just over in the UK, he’s in school for five minutes at RIASA then he’s on trial, and then he goes on to Bradford. It’s kind of happened really fast and because he’s my son I’m going to be pumping him up — but he’s making history for them, which is really great.”


 

Young Wells made a critical choice between athletics and football

Nahki Wells’ early childhood was a sports lover’s dream, but it was at Elliott Primary School where his natural footballing ability really grabbed attention.                         Tennis, squash, table tennis, T-Ball, cricket and, significantly, track and field were just some of the other sports on his agenda.

However, football was always number one, and when it came to the crunch and the youngster had to make a choice on Saturday mornings between athletics and football, there was only ever going to be one winner.

The late Mr Reynold Smith, a former PE teacher at Elliott, urged Elizabeth Simmons to sign her son up for afterschool sessions with Wolves youth team.

“So I did,” says Elizabeth. “He got to play football during school and then he would get to play after school.”

Did she realize he was genuinely good? “Maybe at six or seven I did, just watching him run around that field like speedy Gonzales.”

Nahki went on to join the set-up at Dandy Town at eight-years-old and even then, the burning desire to win was there.

Elizabeth said: “All my children have always been very competitive. It was always like ‘I’m better than you, I’m better than you’.

“More than anything [that’s helped him] it was his drive and determination because he’s a sore loser. Losing used to drive him crazy – whether it was playing Playstation or whatever. They were all so competitive they used to drive me nuts.”

Track and field was a natural fit because of his searing pace. As a child he won the KPMG road series, he did the Front Street mile, and was a member of Flyers Track Club. He also went to Trinidad to represent Bermuda, where he won a gold medal at high jump.

His mom added: “He was into everything but, of course, with track and field you have to train a lot, you have to be very dedicated and it started to interfere with his football. He had to decide. Saturday mornings was football and track and field was Saturday as well. So it was… football!”


 

Early spell in UK proved helpful to Wells in the long run

A chastening trial at Ipswich Town during his first visit to England served to sharpen Nahki Wells’ focus.

At 16, he made the trip with fellow footballer Reggie Lambe but, while Reggie stayed and went on to play for the club, Nahki returned and admitted to his family he simply wasn’t ready to make that step in a strange country away from the familiarity of home.

The former Whitney Institute and CedarBridge Academy student finished school and then pressed ahead with plans to spend a year at Bermuda College, studying business.

Distractions of drink and girls were never really an option for a teenager who, despite the initial setback of his first trip to England, was more determined than ever to make the grade as a professional footballer.

Before college he’d spent summers at David Bascome’s football camps as well as tours with Dandy Town. He’s always been part of the national set-up, through all the age group teams. “As a teenager he didn’t change, but he did become more determined than ever and everything was football,” says mom Elizabeth Simmons.

“From the time he woke up to the time he went to sleep it was football, football, football. He just ate, breathed and slept football.

“The only thing was ‘when are you going to grow?’ because he was small and he really didn’t start sprouting until he was about 16. That used to bother him a lot.

“He went over to England for a short stint with Ipswich but I think it was too early for him. He had to feel comfortable and feel good about it.

Strange country

“He was away from home in a strange country, away from his friends and family. Everything was different. So that was an eye-opener for him.”

After his year at College and a season spent banging in goals for Dandy Town, he was ready. A recommendation from Derek Broadley, then Technical Director at the Bermuda Football Association, helped get him a place at The Richmond International Academic & Soccer Academy (RIASA) in Yorkshire, starting in the summer of 2010.

Elizabeth said: “I think because he had matured more and his mind was more set and he was prepared and ready to do what he had to do, it was much easier for him. When he went to try out for Ipswich I don’t think he was mentally mature enough at the time.”


 

Thanks for the support!

The country is well and truly behind Nahki Wells — and his family have been overwhelmed by the level of support in the build-up to the game.

“I work with Arsenal fans and they’ve watched Nahki’s games,” said mom Elizabeth Simmons. “They tell me ‘I’m an Arsenal fan but today I’m a Bermudian fan and I’m sticking up for my Bermudian’.

“It’s nice, just to know how much support there is ... It’s really touching.

“I tell him, I’m so proud of you, so many people are proud of you because you’re part of history and on top of that you’re only 22-years-old and you’re going to Wembley. There are so many professional footballers who have never been to Wembley.